ARLINGTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – UT Arlington is encouraging all students to minimize their exposure to others for two weeks before returning to campus for the fall semester.
It’s one of many new safety protocols the university is putting in place to protect students and faculty from COVID-19.
“This is definitely going to be a semester like none other,” said Pranesh Aswath, UTA Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Aswath says the university has been preparing for months to welcome students back.
In an email to students, UTA asked them to take a “14-day pause on outside activities” before classes start on August 26:
Stay in your home as much as possible and limit your interactions to immediate family and those who live within your household.
Avoid public transportation if possible, eating out, and large group gatherings.
Continue social distancing from others by remaining at least 6 feet away from anyone you come into contact with.
Do not allow unnecessary guests into your home.
Wear a mask at all times when out in public.
The university is offering a mix of in-person, online and hybrid courses this fall.
Face masks will be required and social distancing enforced.
“It’s not just protecting your own personal health, but also as you come to a university, you have a social responsibility to your peers and to your faculty and staff,” Aswath said.
Nearly 3,000 students have already signed contracts to live on campus for the semester.
Aswath does expect to see some coronavirus cases.
“It’s not just the classroom part,” said Aswath. “You’ve got to think about the bathroom part, you’ve got think about the food lines, you’ve got to think about the dorms.”
UTA has set aside one dorm, Lipscomb Hall, to use exclusively for students who get COVID-19 and need to self-isolate.
The university will then bring them food and provide them with healthcare.
“This is a stand-alone dorm so that we can keep it separate from the rest of campus,” Aswath said.
Every dining hall has been transformed to minimize contact, and even the air conditioning systems have been reconfigured.
“So if there are any aerosols, they get taken out,” he said.
UTA is confident it’s prepared for a variety of possibilities, including the worst case scenario.
“The same group of people that built this plan for the reopening, are also working on a plan of shutting it down if things get out of hand,” said Aswath.
The university has also made a big change to its schedule to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
There will be no in-person classes or exams after Thanksgiving since there’s a higher probability students could be infected if they’re traveling.